These are challenging times for everyone, whether you own a business, work for someone, are self-isolating or because you are worrying about you, yours, or your community. The COVID-19 virus is undermining our society at a very basic level, and there are many of us who face a very real risk.
One of my rules for life is to surround myself with positive
people. I find they help me with the various challenges, be they personal or with
my business. My initial thought when the ban of meetings was announced was “Aaarrrgghh!”
My business is all based on face-to-face meetings and it won’t come as any
surprise when I say that I fundamentally believe in meeting people face-to-face.
However, I was amazed at the positive reaction I received
from members when we made all our meetings virtual. This is a temporary measure, and we will
return to the old format when all this malarkey is over, but for now we meet
using Zoom (other systems are available) each sat in our homes and offices.
Looking smart—at least from the waist up—and sharing support, knowledge
and information. In fact, all the things that we gain at our usual meetings.
But this way we stay safe and well and in touch with other businesses. Since we
work under the Chatham House rule (what is said at a meeting can be told to
others, but not who said it) and those people who are still choosing to visit
can talk about their concerns. At the meetings I have attended in the past week
people have also, I have noticed, shared personal concerns as well as business
I have also noticed that some, after the initial aaarrggghh
moment, day or few days, have started to look at other options for doing what
they already do, or at how they might do things completely differently, and some
have already given up. Now, before anyone takes offence at that last sentence
let me say that I know that some businesses will not survive. However, my
belief is that if you try, desperately sometimes, to find the positive, however
small that is, that helps. It also helps if the people around me are looking
for the small positive too. It also means that when we each reach that aarrgghh
moment again the positive people around are supportive and helpful and when it
is their turn I can reciprocate.
I hope you and yours are safe and well. If I can help in any
way let me know how and, if you want more information, have a look at my
I was talking to a contact recently and used the phrase “Selling through the room” They said they did not know what this meant. I realised that, in any industry, we use jargon that we assume others understand, and I had just fallen into that trap.
I have a belief that responsibility for successful
communication is with the person doing the communicating. I had used “selling…” phrase before and have
assumed that the person I was talking to understood the jargon. So, in the past
week, I have reviewed all my presentations on networking, my blogs, my postings
and the notes I use when having a 1-2-1. I have made a commitment to taking jargon out
of my communication, or at least not assuming everyone understands the jargon
Someone happy to ask the question “What does that mean?” has
really helped me to improve my communication.
And, by the way, the phrase “Selling through the room” means doing business with the contacts of people you meet, not necessarily the contact themselves.
I do a lot of networking and I treat each event as a
business meeting, and I always prepare for business meetings. At each event there is the possibility that I will
meet the best contact I have ever met, and that’s what excites me about
Here are three stages I use:
The first stage is prior to the event: when I accept an invitation to an event, I book some extra time after the event into my diary, so I don’t have to rush off. If there is s delegates list I look through and see if there is anyone I would like to take more time to talk to and I will contact them and ask if they would like a 1-2-1 after the event.
If there isn’t anyone who I want a 1-2-1 with at that time, then I can just spend more time with people at the event.
After the meeting I move into stage three, I continue to develop
the relationships with people I have met at the event. First, I email everyone
who’s card I have and thank them for their time, ask did they find the event
productive, send them any information I have agreed to send them, sometimes
this is information about one of our Groups, sometimes information about the
ad-hoc networking events we arrange that are not part of our core business. (I always ask someone when they give me their
card if they are OK with me sending them information) Occasionally I will
suggest a 1-2-1.
Whatever the email says I always make contact after any
event, and yes it takes time, but since the point of networking is starting and
developing relationships, it seems obvious to me that this is part of successful
My business is business networking, we have Groups who meet
every two weeks and there is membership. We also have a maximum number in
Groups of 25 and our Groups start small and grow organically to that number.
When people contact me about visiting a Group one of the questions I am often
asked is “How many are in the Group?” To me this is based on the idea that the
more people you have in a room the more chances there are of getting business.
That has never been my experience.
I have been to networking events of over 600 people and a)
You could not hear yourself think b) It was all sell, sell, sell and c) I did
some great networking with the small group of people who sought peace in the
My Groups are small, start small and remain under 25, and we
do have a waiting list so I could choose to get more into some of our Groups.
Why this decision? When I network I want to meet people who are there to build
relationship, share knowledge, give support and then, when there is a strong
mutual trust, refer people. The important part of this is building
relationships, and I think this is best done, at any one time, with a small
number of people.
As a business owner, it could be argued, that I should want
to get really large Groups and make the most money. I disagree. I want my
members to get the most from the business networking they do in their Groups
and from the membership they pay. Within any one of my Groups there is a ‘Feel’
almost impossible to pin down but based on a mutual support of each other and
on the strong relationships that have been developed. So, what I want for the
members in my Groups are not just numbers of people there but of people who
understand that building relationships is the most important thing about business
networking. This is not a numbers game.
I recently met someone at a business networking event who
said “I don’t have any business cards, because I think they are a waste of
money” he went on to explain that people tended to remember him and, if they
wanted to know anything about his business, they would find him if they
searched online. I was amazed. My business is business networking and so that’s
what I do. In a working week I can meet perhaps a couple of hundred people and
whilst each person I meet is memorable in some way, I’m human so people I haven’t met before can be forgotten
or I can misremember the name of their company. When making contact with them
after the event it is the business card that is vital Why? Because I look at
their business online, look them up on Linkedin and connect*, and then make
appropriate contact by email. Appropriate? Some people may have asked to attend
one of my meetings, others have asked to be invited to our corporate events,
and some I have already met, and we are along the road of building a strong
Anyway, back to the business cards. I know that these days
people have various ways of collecting information electronically from the
business cards of people they meet. That is great, but there needs to be a
business card to collect the information from. So my advice to people who don’t
have business cards, or people who just have a telephone number on theirs?
Accept that we are all fabulous and all forgettable and help others help you
and your business by having a business card, it won’t be a waste of money.
*Recently told about ‘Find nearby’ on Linkedin If you, and
the person you are talking to, both have the Linkedin app on your phones: both
open them, tap the My Network tab. Tap Find nearby at the top of the screen.
As the owner of a membership business networking company it
could be said that, of course I want members to bring along people who might
become members, and that is true. So why should members do this? As a networker
we all want to be the person who people come to when they need some product or
service, someone who people see as someone who knows people. Why? Because if
someone asks me if I know a plumber, they are also going to ask me about my networking
if they decide they want to review the networking they do. I recommend all
types of networking to all types of people and, while I hope they will choose
my company when they decide on a membership type of commitment, I accept that
my type of networking, relaxed, informal, but business-focussed with no
pressure, is not for everyone. Some people need a formal style and pressure,
while others need a less structured approach, to get the most from their
One of my Group Directors (GDs) told me that, when they
network outside of ebn,
they talk very briefly about their own business and ask instead “What other
networking do you do?” This means they get to hear of other networking which
they might not know about, and also means that they can talk about ebn and offer an
invitation. Why should they do this? Because if the invitation is accepted and
the visitor attends, the GD can then talk about their business as part of the
meeting and surrounded by people who have used their services and who can recommend
them. Since it is always better for others to say good things about your
business, rather than you (The “You would say that wouldn’t you” syndrome) the
trust is build a little quicker.
Another reason why we should all invite people to good
networking events is that this helps build the relationship. If you tell me
about an event, I attend and have a productive time there, I think more highly
of you, the business relationship becomes stronger and who knows where that
might lead for both of our businesses. If we attend a network event together we
might spend some time together, particularly if this is a relatively new
business relationship, but we shouldn’t stay together. We are there to meet
others. It might be that I introduce you to someone with whom there might be a
synergy between your businesses. If we find we have lots more to say then we
should arrange a date to have a coffee sometime.
So invite people to good networking events, the organisers
will thank you (another benefit) and so might the person you invite.
Networking is a means of meeting
people and building relationships. Once relationships are strong then work will
flow, but remember it is not about what work can be done between the people in
front of you…that is probably very little. However none of us live in a bubble,
we all know people and we all have customers. It is about who do we know, who
do they know, and what work can flow from these connections. That’s what makes
networking exciting; as you walk into a networking event you could meet someone
who could change your life by the amount of business they give you.
So, is it just about getting
business? No it’s not. I believe that ultimately that is what we network for
but what we may find:
Confidence: the more you do it the easier it should get,
because you will hone your skills and each type of group allows you to hone
Skills: how to talk to people about your business.
Each event will provide different ways of telling people about your business,
but in my experience all events include “open networking”.
people who have a wealth of experience in their field. In my experience people
are generous with their knowledge. The challenge is always to learn, whilst not
expecting people to endlessly give for free. I have found the more referrals I
have given the more people are prepared to share their knowledge.
network of people who do things. So if you, or one of your customers or
friends, needs a plumber for example,
you will know one. Or you will know someone who knows one, and just
think if you help potential or existing
customers source suppliers what happens
when they need what you do? They come to you.
Over the years I have made many friends through networking and attended some
good social events…but that is not why I network. Networking is ultimately
about getting work.
When talking to people about my system of networking I am
often asked “How do you manage a room full of people” This can be daunting,
even for the most confident or experienced networkers. My advice is: First
gather your thoughts and your positive attitude before you walk in, just before
you get out of the car is a good time and place, walk in with a smile, don’t
overdo it or you’ll look scary, and have a plan. My plan is I follow my 3/3/3
Category 1. Talk
to three people you know really well but don’t stay with them, which is always
tempting. Long day, long week, stress at work; you could stay in your comfort
zone. Don’t do it. If needs be arrange a 1-2-1 with them and then move on. You might want to ask people you meet the
question “Who (what type of company) are you looking for?” If you have already
met someone who matches the description, you can make the introduction. If not,
look out for them as you continue to network. Also ask people “Is there anyone
you have met here that you think I should meet?” if the answer is Yes get them
to introduce you.
Category2. Talk to three people that you may
have only met once or twice. This enables you to develop the business
relationship further. Arrange a 1-2-1. Call it ‘having a coffee’ if 1-2-1 sound
too formal. Stay with them longer than people in category 1 because the
relationship is not yet as strong and needs to be developed. Move on, but before
you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.
Category3. Talk to three people you have never
met before. This can be a bit scary, but you are all there to network and they
may be relieved to not have to approach someone they don’t know. If you really
can’t do this, talk to the organiser. Make sure they know what you do and ask
them to introduce you to someone with whom there might be synergy, so you can
work together. Stay even longer with them than either of the people in category
1 or 2 because the business relationship is just starting. But do move on and
before you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.
Recently I was told my 3/3/3 rule was the thing that had
helped the person I was talking to the most. When I told them that this was
something I had devised I received profuse thanks and another business relationship
was made stronger. When typing that last sentence, I suddenly thought, “Did
someone tell it me and I have forgotten?”, so I Googled it (other search
engines are available) and came up with stuff about routing cables, so I’m
still pretty sure it came from my brain. I am sure people will let me know if I
So I offer you my 3/3/3 rule. Once you have met and talked
to nine people you can, if you wish go, back to your office…or you could go
At a recent networking event I spoke to someone who said
they never wear their name badge, because they thought it made people lazy
about remembering names. I always
wear a name badge and so I started to think about why I do. There are three
The first, and I think the most important, is that I think
we all have moments when we can’t remember a person’s name or where they work.
A quick glance at a name badge and we relax into the conversation rather than
some part of our brain wondering what the missing details are. This means we
can concentrate completely on what is being said, and surely that aids
communication and building relationships?
The second reason is that people know what to call us. So,
we may be a Matthew on our business card because it is company policy, but
everyone knows us as Matt. Having a name badge with ‘Matt’ showing gives people
permission to call us by the name we are most comfortable with. In a previous
career many people called me Glen and, at that time, only my mum called me
Glenys. My name badge showed Glen and for me it would have been strange to be
called Glenys at work, which is the name I had to use on my business card.
The final reason (and this might just be me) is that my name badge is part of my networking ‘uniform’: professional outfit, business cards and name badge. Ready to go.
So, what do you think? Are you a name badge wearer or not
and, whichever camp you stand in, why is that?
When meeting new members, I always talk to them about my
definition of having a robust networking strategy. The first part of this is to
actually have a strategy, otherwise how can you know whether what you are doing
is worth doing?
For me this kind of strategy includes three types of
Type 1: Cheap or free
These are held at various times of the day and may involve
you buying a drink, or paying a fee on the door, or may be free because of
sponsorship of the event
Type 2: Relatively expensive, to very expensive
The type that, if you were to do it every day, or every
week, would be an expensive marketing tool. This type is almost always a sit-down
meal, perhaps once a month or less frequently, and again may have an element of
Type 3: Membership
When I meet someone networking and they say “Oh, I don’t
join anything” what I hear is ‘hunter’, and by this, I mean someone who is
there only for themselves. Whereas true networking is about building
relationships and being part of a give and take environment. Obviously, I would
like it to always be that people are members of ebn,
but if someone tells me they are a member of another networking company I know
that they have made a commitment to a company rather than just going to see
what’s in it for them.
Why should there be this mix?
There needs to be a mix of networking types because if you
want to meet a wide range of people and companies, and they only go to one
type, then you are never going to meet some of them if you only stick to one
Whatever you do, review your networking as you would any
marketing. I think the review should be based on the question “Is it worth it?”
Some people talk about ROI and mean money. For me ROI can also mean learning
something that assists my business, meeting someone who becomes a supplier and
enables me to get on with my core business and building relationships who
support me and my business.